Scientists from the Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory (SAO) made a number of important discoveries in astrophysics and space physics. SAO scientists were part of teams that used the Hubble Space Telescope to recalibrate the universe's expansion rate, and thus its age, and to analyze evolution of galaxies in the early universe. SAO scientists analyzed data from the Ultraviolet Coronal Spectrometer (UVCS) that flew aboard the Spartan 201-2 satellite and discovered a remarkably hot gas in the atmosphere above the Sun's south pole that may offer clues to the origin and nature of the solar wind.
A scientist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, detected the first "natural" laser in space. Aboard NASA's Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO), the scientist used the aircraft's infrared telescope to observe a young, very hot, luminous star in the constellation Cygnus that emitted an intense beam of infrared light. Discovery of this naturally occurring laser has given astronomers a powerful tool for probing the conditions in circumstellar disks where astronomers believe planets form.
In the area of Earth sciences, the SAO-developed Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment was launched aboard the European Space Agency's second European Remote Sensing Satellite. It will monitor ozone levels in the Earth's atmosphere and generate a complete world ozone map every 3 days.
Finally, scientists from the SAO and Russian astronomers worked to set up the U.S. Data Center for the Spectrum-X-Gamma mission, an international collaborative space x-ray observatory led by NASA and the High Energy Division of the Institute for Space Research in Moscow.
Curator: Lillian Gipson|
Last Updated: September 5, 1996
For more information contact Steve Garber, NASA History Office,